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How to Leave a Toxic Relationship When You’re Still in Love

Clinging girlfriend

“Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” ~Marilyn Monroe

Why does it have to hurt so badly?

You’re so in love, but your relationship has become toxic. It simply can’t continue.

Night after sleepless night, you lie awake replaying the fights in your head.

You can’t understand why your partner won’t change or how they can simply ignore how you feel. You wonder if they ever truly loved you.

You’ve tried everything to save your relationship, but nothing’s worked. You know it’s time to end it, yet the thought of being alone petrifies you.

But still, the pain has become too unbearable. If you don’t end things now, you might completely lose yourself.

Learning to Let Go

Letting go of someone you care about is definitely a difficult thing to do.

I was forced to accept that my relationship with my ex wasn’t meant to be.

The lies and the cheating became too much to handle. And to make matters worse, he was also physically abusive to me.

The blows were so unexpected. I never knew if the next argument would put me in the hospital, or maybe worse, be my last.

I wanted him to stop hurting me. I wanted him to understand that his behavior tore me apart inside.

I wanted him to change.

It didn’t matter how much I loved him. It didn’t matter if I was the best woman or friend in the universe; nothing would have worked.

Was he really worth all of this?

No, he wasn’t. And I knew I needed to get him out of my life.

If you’re stuck in a toxic relationship, know that you can find the strength to get yourself out of it and move on.

Realize That You Deserve Better

Sometimes, loving someone just isn’t enough if you aren’t receiving the same love in return.

It’s like putting work into an old, broken-down car. No matter how much sweat and tears you put into it, it will never be the same again.

The time you waste on the wrong person prevents the right person from coming your way.

How can they come into your life if you already have that space filled?

It took me a long time to realize this.

If you had told me back then that I would have found a man who truly loved and respected me for who I was, I would have never believed you.

I had to let go.

Shortly after as I let go of my abusive relationship, I met my husband. He is the reason I believe in true love today.

I am living proof that you can experience true love if you just believe that something much better is out there for you.

You may not know who they are, or when they will come, but they are waiting on you to let go so that they can come into your life.

Stop Waiting for Your Partner to Change

This is the biggest mistake a person can make when deciding to stay in a relationship in which you’re being mistreated.

You have to accept that the only person you control in this world is yourself.

Unless the other person owns up to their mistakes, and shows the desire to get help, they probably won’t change.

They may promise to change and turn things around for the better.

They may even be genuine about their intentions at that moment.

But more than likely, things will stay the same, especially if they made promises in the past that they didn’t fulfill.

Change has to come from within; it can’t be forced. Only then do things have a chance of working themselves out.

I thought my ex would change for me. I thought that if I tried hard enough to convince him how much he hurt me, he would have no choice but to change. But I was wrong.

Sometimes our judgment is clouded. Sometimes we simply want to see the best in someone. Sometimes we’re just so afraid of being alone.

Regardless of what we tell ourselves, some relationships are just irreparable.

Accept That It Will Hurt

There is no easy way of getting around it.

It’s going to hurt. And it’s going to hurt a lot!

You’re worried about missing the feeling of being desired and wanted, the intimate and close moments you shared.

Instead of being just a part of your life, they have become your entire life. You have forgotten how to live for yourself.

Getting over the initial discomfort of being alone is the hardest part. But once you get past that stage, life becomes a whole lot easier.

The lessons you learn along the way will allow you to grow and become a better person.

The pain will not last forever. Time is your best friend.

When I ended my relationship with my ex, I tried everything I could to distract myself. I figured that if I didn’t think about it, the pain would eventually disappear.

When that didn’t work, I tried to think of ways to mend our relationship rather than end it. I figured that accepting the disappointment in him was easier to handle than being lonely.

That was another failed attempt at avoiding heartache.

At some point, I knew I had to accept that it would never work out, and any route I took to end it wouldn’t be an easy one.

If you work through the pain, instead of trying to avoid it, you limit the chances of your feelings coming back to haunt you later on.

Use Crying As a Cure

The best thing you can do for yourself is to release the pain. Don’t hold it in.

Sometimes, we are expected to be strong when we’re dealing with tough situations.

I’ve found that to be ineffective.

The more I tried to hold in my pain and be strong, the worse I felt, and I eventually stressed myself out.

So what did I do?

I cried.

I cried over and over again, and then I cried some more.

Yup, you heard me right.

I cried like a baby!

I stopped pretending everything was okay. I allowed the tears to keep falling until I felt they couldn’t fall any longer. It lasted a few weeks, but I felt like a new person when it was over.

The tight feeling in my chest was no longer there. I began to think clearer and notice that things weren’t truly as bad as I thought they were.

I started smiling again. I started noticing the sun shining and the beautiful clouds in the sky. I was no longer in that dark place. I felt brand new.

Instead of trying to be strong, crying can help with the healing process.

Take Some Time Off

Sometimes, it seems like the end of the world, even though it’s not.

Your mind attempts to play tricks on you, making you believe that happiness isn’t possible any longer.

But that isn’t true.

Often, the best cure for pain is time.

By resting your heart, mind and soul, you give yourself a chance to heal. This is also the best time to get to know you.

Maybe there’s a hobby that you love or an activity you enjoy doing.

For me, it was baking. Even though it didn’t completely take my mind off of things, it allowed me to spend time alone doing something I really enjoyed.

And I appreciated that.

Eventually, I began focusing more on myself, and less on my situation.

It didn’t work immediately, but over time, it helped a lot.

If you allow it, each day will become a little easier. Time heals.

And even though my relationship didn’t work out as planned, I realized I could still enjoy my life.

Happiness is Within Your Control

Your life isn’t over. Taking back control begins with you.

Everyone needs help at one time or another. You don’t have to go through this alone.

If you’re in a toxic relationship, there are people that can help you. Seeking help from your loved ones, a professional or even a clergy member, can help you get back on your feet.

I am living proof that you can get through this. You can overcome your situation.

Just imagine finally being happy again and enjoying the things that you used to love. No more worrying about the future. You are finally content with the present.

The load has been lifted off of your chest. The tears no longer fall.

You finally realize you deserve better. It may seem unimaginable right now, but it’s definitely possible.

If you make the choice today, you are one step closer to a happier tomorrow.

You can do it. I believe in you. Now it’s time for you to believe in yourself.

Make a declaration that today starts the healing process. From now on, you will work toward living the amazing life you deserve.

**If you believe you are in a dangerous situation, please seek help. Don’t wait. Contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline for help. You can find additional free resources here.

Clinging woman image via Shutterstock

Profile photo of Tiffaney Kennedy

About Tiffaney Kennedy

Tiffaney Kennedy is a mentor whose passion is helping women overcome life’s toughest challenges. Sign up to receive your free copy of "56 Motivational Quotes That Will Change Your Life."

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Announcement: Tired of feeling stuck? Learn to let go of the past and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • What a beautiful post, Tiffany. It is so, so, so difficult to leave an abusive relationship, for so many reasons it’s difficult to count. You showed enormous courage, and my, look what you learned in the process.
    So proud and happy for you!

  • Hi Susan!

    Thank you so much for your kind words! I hope my experience will help someone else going through a similar situation.

    Best,

    Tiffaney

  • Lizanne Knott

    Thank you for your profound words, such good advice.

  • Hi Diane,

    Thank you for your comment. An abusive relationship is extremely hard to get over, but with help, you can definitely move on and live a happy life! Thank you for sharing your site.

    Best,

    Tiffaney

  • Thank you Lizanne. I appreciate your kind words.

    Best,

    Shanda

  • Shannon

    Thanks for your article.

    It seems two statements are somewhat contradictory.

    “If you had told me back then that I would have found a man who truly loved and respected me for who I was, I would have never believed you.

    I am living proof that you can experience true love if you just believe that something much better is out there for you.”

    Did you believe or not believe?

  • Hi Shannon,

    Thanks for your question. If you notice, in the first sentence I stated, “If you had told me back then….” Back then I didn’t believe. I was in such a terrible situation that I couldn’t see beyond my current circumstance. But now, since I have healed and moved on, I definitely believe that you can find someone who truly loves and respects you. That’s because now I’m living proof. And since I am living proof, I can help others that don’t believe it’s possible. Hope that clarified my statement.

    Best,

    Tiffaney

  • rory richardson

    AWESOME! Just ended a relationship. It hurts so bad but I cant change anyone and I am finally learning at 40 what I need. He can tell me he will do better 1000 times, but never did. I cant lose my happiness -and I was doing that. I cry, too. It helps. Thanks so much for the encouraging words:)

  • Shannon

    Yes, I agree proof makes it easy to believe. It’s like it’s easy to have faith when things are going well. What if all the proof and evidence I have shows me that I won’t find love? I guess I’m saying it’s easy to believe you won the lottery after you’ve won the lottery. But for those of us who haven’t yet, we can’t believe it.

  • rt

    I am leaving my marriage of 28 years and doing it alone since announcing I was separating. I decided my life was too important to continue sacrificing it for my husband’s happiness and life. I have to start again, but I have given myself hope to find and be happy in a life where my life matters. The day I decided to separate was the day my crying finally stopped. After having believe this was how I had to live for the rest of my life.
    When you finally realize you deserve so much better, no matter what you have or own, everything is possible. Just believe it! We all deserve to be happy, no matter what. Good luck!

  • Paula

    It is the difference between faith and evidence. If you need evidence to believe something then you most likely never will believe it until it happens (and it may not obviously). If you have faith then you can believe in the absence of evidence. Try Wayne Dyer’s book “when you believe you will receive”. He goes into that concept much more there.

  • Thanks Paula! Very well said.

    Best,

    Tiffaney

  • Hi Rt,

    Your courage is inspiring. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Best,

    Tiffaney

  • rt

    Hi Paula always love books on personal growth could you please advise the title of Wayne Dyer’s book this quote came from. Thank you.

  • rt

    Thank you Tiffaney for your kind words. It’s people like you who share their experience to help people like me believe and know everything is possible. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • rt

    Thank you so much Paula. Greatly appreciated.

  • Thank you for the article. I think the reason so many people become stuck in toxic relationships is simply because they value the thoughts and feelings of their significant other over their own feelings. I guess you could call it a lack of self-love or low self-esteem.

  • Artaffected

    The biggest hurdle, for an eternal optimist, is recognizing the toxicity for what it is and not trying to justify it or think it will disappear or change. Huge lesson here after 7 years with a self-serving narcissist. Yup. Thanks for sharing, Tiffaney!

  • disqus_AxVu9XwcIQ

    Thanks for the article Tiffany. I am now divorced for the last 5 months. I knew the relationship was toxic and verbally abusive yet I stayed because of our child who is 2.5. He ended things unexpectedly and was very abusive and blamed me for everything. I was bowled over and just cried for an entire month. I literally am starting from scratch since I gave up a really good job, left my home and moved to a different country. I am now back home with my son thankfully. I am grateful for my family and the support. I am seeing a therapist and excercise but finding it difficult now since I found out he’s in a new relationship. I know we were doomed. I know it was toxic and I lost myself but it hurts that he has moved on. I’m angry and disappointed. Your article gives me hope and I know it’s journey ahead I just hope I can move past this hurt.

  • Melissa

    Your mind is trying to trick you into thinking that the relationship you were in was not as bad as you thought. What you have to realize is that you owe it to your son and yourself to seek a more healthy way of life. It is hard to start over, but you have taken a huge step in the right direction! Keep walking. It is normal to feel angry and disappointed in the fact that your ex has moved on. In time, it will not matter to you what he is doing as you will have re captured you own life again.

  • LoversAnxiety

    I’m in a crappy situation. I’m 24 my man is 33. I have two sons and he has one.. Our sons love each other. All bonded like brothers! My man and my youngest son are bonded the closest.. To the point my man claims him as his own and has even told me he loves him more then any one even his own son. Which is another story.. But even though he’s amazing wit my son.. He is not with me. Constant disrespect.. Bitch to him is equal to woman in his vocabulary (literally sees no problem in it). And the fights are everyday… He tells me it’s my fault and too be honest I’ve gotten so far I believe most of it is my fault. Maybe I don’t understand him because he’s older? I don’t know…. It just sucks. I think what hurts the most is expecting people to change or to be appreciative for everything you do but they don’t care at all. It’s actually expectant for them that you do those things. hard to please someone who expects to be pleased.. They don’t see the hard effort. Not to mention the affection it’s never been there.. Maybe I’m over affectionate? But I hate no getting a kiss on the forehead or a “your beautiful” more often then “lame ass bitch.” Idk there are just so many problems but all I focus on is trying to make them Better instead of saying “Fuck this guy, if he doesn’t care why should I?” Life’s rough.

  • SMC

    hi

    i broke up with my ex 4 moths ago (My first relationship). We had a fight on first trip. Then patched up. He commited try to work things out, hope good things stay true forever. A month later he sent me text to end the relationship; Reason being no passion/sparks better of being friends. Frankly speaking I felt ghosted, cheated. Betrayed. Despair. Unfollowed him & his common friends. No closure attained. It hurts me & kill my self esteem.

    We’re not in contact since then. I’ve been working to improve my fitness, getting on with my life. Picked up new hobby which happens to be his as well. Keeping myself distract.
    New people & hobby reminds me of him >.< I might be escaping the reality..

    Certain time i still gets reminder of the past. I still thinks bout him. I do hv the urge to text him. But I dont knw if i want him back? or what to do..

  • SMC

    I continue to work. Carry out my duties. Post break up break kept postponing for some reason.. I might be pretending strong. Actually deep down i need comfort.

  • moosie

    This was such a heartfelt article – thank you for sharing your experience

  • kangaroo

    What if the other person does not let you go? What if he always comes and begs and you are tired to close the door on him all the time. He does not want to accept that it is finished. It is ended.

  • LovenoLimit

    “I felt ghosted, cheated. Betrayed. Despair”. Just how I felt. It’s a hurtful horrible feeling. You have the urge to text him because you’re looking for a way to have that broken heart mended. I know…I was there. Not a good idea. It’s like putting a band aid over a bullet wound. It’s like drinking or taking drug to escape the hurt. It’ll make you feel better for the moment, then something will happen and the hurt starts all over again. I know it’s easier said than done, but it’s better to let it burn and eventually get over it than to cont to get your heart broken over and over and over again. And it may not be him you miss, but what you thought he was. I speak from experience.